Courage Under Fire


Sermon Outline By Terry Siverd

Cortland Church of Christ / June 26, 2016

Our twentieth annual Songs Of Light will be two weeks from today - - Sunday PM, July 10th.

Rod Sheldon has once again agreed to lead our singing.

Our Summer Youth Retreat (Camp 2:52) is now just three weeks away - - July 17-22.

Our theme for this year is, BRAVE.

This morning I want to talk a bit more about bravity (a word that I have coined).

My spell check keeps correcting me and changing the word to brevity.

Gravity is a thing of nature that draws us downward and often causes us to stumble and fall.

“Bravity” is a thing of God that draws us upward and lifts us up and brings us victory.

Js.1:12 states - - Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial;  for once he has been approved,

he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

I want to introduce you to four young men who experienced perseverance under trial on a first-hand basis.

Open your Bibles to the Old Testament book of Daniel.

?  Read from Daniel 1:1-7  ?

The book of Daniel was written at a time in history (605 BC) when the Babylonian Empire had become strong.

Vs.2 states that, the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand.

The children of Israel were being punished by God and the Babylonians were God’s instrument of judgment.

Vs.3 notes that King Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) ordered one of chief officials to bring back to Babylon

Some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles.

The criteria that was used to select these young men is specified in vs.4

(1) youths – the Hebrew word refers to “teenagers”.

(2) without defect

(3) good looking

(4) displaying a wide-range of intelligence

(5) ability to serve in the king’s court

These youths were chosen and then put on a special three-year course of development for both mind and body.

They were to be enrolled in classes on “the literature and language of the Chaldeans” – vs.4b

They were also to be given a special diet of “the king’s choice food and wine” – vs.5

Essentially this was a “brain-washing” technique used to reprogram them for the Babylonian culture.

The design was to convert them from the monotheism of the Israelites to the polytheism of the Babylonians.

The ultimate aim of this training was to bring about a rejection of Jehovah God and His teachings …

And thereby bring them to a point where they would openly embrace the Babylonian way.

From among the sons of Judah, four were chosen:  Daniel … Hananiah … Mishael … and Azariah.

New names were promptly given to each of them:  Belteshazzar … Shadrach … Meshach … and Abed-nego.

Vs. 8 notes, Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or wine…

Apparently this was also the desire of his companions (vs.12).

This wasn’t just a case of Daniel and friends being finicky (picky eaters) - - there was something defiling about the diet.

Leviticus 11 contains an extensive list of dietary prohibitions.  cf. Deut.14:3-21

The Law of Moses (God’s Law inscribed by Moses) also frowned upon eating meats that had been sacrificed to Idols - -

cf.  Ex.34:15;  Num.25:1-2  and  Deut.32:37-38

“To share a meal was to commit oneself to friendship.”  It was a form of endorsement.

Eating the king’s choice foods may have represented a two-fold DEFILEMENT - - a double-whammy - -

a violation of Jewish dietary laws and the transgression of having fellowship with idolaters.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers! … Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  cf. 2Cor.6:14

Daniel sought permission (vs.8) to override or disregard the king’s prescribed meals.

The King’s commander was not eager to bend the rules lest he “forfeit his head” (vs.10c).

But Daniel persuaded him (actually God granted him favor / vs.9) to allow them to experiment for TEN DAYS (vs.12).

The four sons of Judah came away looking better than all their classmates (they ate their vegetables / vs.16).

In addition, they excelled at learning, thanks to God’s blessings, doing much better than their peers (vs.20).

They scored ten times better than their counterparts on their A.C.T.s (Advanced Chaldean Tests).

The open declaration of their convictions on the part of these four Hebrew youths took great courage.

They knew God’s will about what to eat and what not to eat and they were diligent in being true to God’s directives.

They displayed “bravity” and it lifted them up and gave them success.

Bravity is not just being fearless - - bravity is being obedient - - doing what God tells us to do.

Subsequent to this story, Daniel is called upon to interpret the king’s dreams (Dan.2:14-18).

Daniel requested that his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, pray on his behalf about this assignment.

Dan.2:48-49 tells of promotions for both Daniel and his friends.

Daniel chapter three is a companion story about Daniel’s companions - - another story of courage under fire.

In this case the “fire” is not metaphorical, but real.

King Nebuchadnezzar commanded the construction of a golden obelisk (90’ tall and 9½’ wide).  cf. Dan.2:31f

A dedication service was announced and all attendees were to bow down and worship this idol.

At the moment you hear the music…you shall fall down and worship the golden image (vs.5). 

The king expected 100% compliance and there was to be zero tolerance for any who disobeyed.

Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire (vs.6).

You’ve heard of “turn or burn” - - this was “bow or burn”.

Daniel was apparently on another assignment on this day of dedication.

But some of the Chaldeans noticed that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego disregarded the king’s edict.

These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image… (vs.12). 

These tattletales may have been consumed with jealousy because of the success of these Hebrew youths.

The king was in rage and anger (vs.13).

 He called them on the carpet where they faced a “royal inquisition”.

“Is it true?”  The band will play and you will be given another opportunity to bow and worship.

If not, you will be thrown into the furnace … and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands? (vs.15).

The youths answered, (If such be the case)

Our God whom we serve is ABLE TO DELIVER US  from the furnace of  blazing fire;

and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you,

O King, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

This time King Nebuchadnezzar was really enraged - -

filled with wrath and his facial expression was altered… (vs.19).  He was about to blow a head gasket.

He ordered the furnace to be stoked making it seven times hotter than it was.

The king was “fit to be tied” so he ordered that Shadrack, Meshach and Abed-nego be tied-up.

As they approached, the heat consumed the soldiers, but the Hebrew youths were thrown into the furnace all tied up.

The king peered into the furnace and asked, “did we not throw three men into the furnace?”

I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm…

And the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods (vs.25).

The king drew near the furnace door and called out to the youths, “Come out…and come here!” / vs.26

They appeared before the king with no ill effects.

Not a hair singed.  Trousers unburned.  They didn’t even have the smell of fire upon them (vs.27).

In Isa.43:2 God promised Israel, “when you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.”

Heb.11:34 speaks of men of faith who “quenched the power of fire…”

Noticed now the king’s new edict (vs.29) - -

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel

and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command,

and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.

Therefore, I made a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive

against the God of Shadrack, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses

reduced  to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.

This is a story of genuine courage under fire!

Shadrack, Meshach and Abed-nego resolved to be FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH (even if it meant death by fire).

They determined to TRUST God.  They STOOD FIRM against the order of the king.

These three teens knew well the Word Of God - - in particular the first and second commandments.

You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol. / Ex.20:3-4

The story concludes (vs.30) - -

Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

What is especially impressive about the behavior of these three teens in trusting and

obeying God is the realization that they didn’t do this just to get a promotion.

Remember their words:  Our God is able to deliver us,

but even if He does not…we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image.

Even had they been burned to a crisp, it would have been well with their souls.

Throughout all of our days (and especially during our teen years) we will be tempted, tried and tested.

We must resolve in advance to have courage under fire.  We can’t wait till the heat is on to decide.

If we are to stand firm for God and stand strong with God, it will require considerable faith and devotion.

To have faith we must know God’s words - - God’s teaching - - we must know our Bibles well.

It is faith that gives us bravity and it is bravity that lifts us up and brings us favor with God.

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